The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is perhaps Kenya’s most prized accomplishment in the recent while. It is after all, the country’s most ambitious project since its independence. As such, there has been a buzz about it ever since it was launched some two years ago. The speed, plus the comfort were supposed to revolutionize the experience of travelling between Nairobi and Mombasa. A journey that otherwise goes on overnight on a bus, would now be completed in a mere 4 hours. The comfort was also improved, the price was competitive and the scenery could not be matched by the views from a bus ride. It is for these reasons that I was quite excited to get the experience myself.
The experience of taking the SGR, for the most part, lived up to the hype it had received. The train left exactly on time without a minute of delay. The train was full to capacity, a good indicator that travelers had taken well to the service. The ride was as smooth as advertised, in fact, it was so smooth that it felt like the train was moving considerably slower than it should have been. The train was clean, well-organized and well maintained, including the toilets, something I appreciated and hope continues to be so. The views were spectacular, especially when crossing through the vast savannahs, or Tsavo National park. There weren’t many animals to be spotted, but there were a few elephants at least. The food served on board was also quite good; there was a wide variety of items on the menu and there was something for everyone.
I had ridden the train from Nairobi but, unlike most people on the train, I was not headed to Mombasa. Instead, my journey took me to Voi. As it turns out, Voi is actually a rather popular stop, especially with tourists going to the Tsavo National park. The service in these smaller stations is just as efficient as in bigger stations, if not even better. The train had arrived exactly on time and I had arrived a satisfied customer with a lot of good things to say as is evident here.
There is one thing I liked less about this experience though. The locations of the stations: they are far from city centers. Even for a smaller station like Voi, one still has to take a vehicle to get to the town center.
All in all, the SGR experience was a good one. It was not merely about getting from point A to point B, or the comfort, or the speed, or any other one thing that’s good about it. What made it wholesomely good was all of these put together. I hope you had the same experience I did, I hope you get this experience if you haven’t tried it yet and I am looking forward to experiencing it on my next trip.
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